Hogan Lovells files amicus brief urging United States Supreme Court to reject a challenge to Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

Press releases | 22 August 2022

Washington, D.C., 22 August 2022 – Global law firm Hogan Lovells, Muslim Advocates, and Columbia Law School’s Law Rights & Religion Project have filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of 30 faith, civil rights, and grassroots organizations asking the Court to reject a challenge to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). 

Website design company 303 Creative LLC seeks to offer wedding website services in Colorado but wants to refuse to provide these service to same-sex couples in violation of CADA. Company owner Lori Smith claims CADA violates her constitutional right to free speech by preventing her from refusing service to same-sex couples and posting a “straights only” disclaimer. Having lost this argument in two courts, the company and Smith are petitioning the Supreme Court to recognize a free speech exception to CADA.  

“Such a speech-based exemption from compliance with anti-discrimination laws would open the floodgates to the very discrimination that these laws are intended to guard against,” the amicus brief states. “The consequences cannot be overstated: it would throw open the doors to discrimination against people who practice religion, with the strongest impact falling on people of faith from minority religious communities.”

Hogan Lovells partner Jessica Ellsworth said: “Public accommodations laws have long ensured equal access to the marketplace for all people. Colorado’s public accommodations law, which dates back to 1885, is based on common law that predates the First Amendment.” 

Liz Reiner Platt, Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project said: For over 50 years, people of faith, particularly those of minority faiths, have relied on civil rights laws to protect their access to the open market. This case threatens to upend these protections, ushering in a new era of legal segregation—including on the basis of religion."

Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Christopher Godshall-Bennett added: “What Ms. Smith and her ideological benefactors are trying to accomplish is nothing less than one of most sweeping rollbacks of fundamental civil rights protections in American history. As an organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of the full diversity of American Muslim communities, we are particularly concerned for LGBTQ+ Muslims who could face insidious dual discrimination as they go about their daily lives should the Supreme Court adopt these naked perversions of First Amendment principles. ”

The Hogan Lovells team was led by Ellsworth, a partner in the firm’s Appellate practice in Washington, D.C. The team also included: senior associate Matthew A. Ducharme (New York), associate Rachael A. Sakurai (Denver), paralegal Alicia Balthazar, and summer associates Gabrielle Simeck, William Winter, Samayra Siddiqui, and Sabrina Apple. 

The brief is here